Congress skeptical about British lobbying on Iran deal

WASHINGTON – With British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson coming to town next week to lobby Congress to save the Iran Deal, lawmakers expressed skepticism regarding the efforts. “I don’t think it will play any part at all. We are not part of the European Union,” Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) told Jewish Insider on Thursday. “A politician from another country coming here to lobby us, he might as well save his airfare and stay home.”

Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) have expressed a desire to push legislation that would amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) by reimposing nuclear sanctions if Iran came within a year of obtaining nuclear weapons, and thus eliminating the sunset provisions currently in place. Speaking before the UK Foreign Affairs Committee, Johnson warned against additional US sanctions that could lead to the derailment of the deal.

With not a single Democrat publicly backing the reimposition of nuclear sanctions against Tehran, Johnson’s efforts would likely focus on convincing Republicans who have slammed the 2015 agreement.

“I respect the transatlantic partnership we have with Great Britain,” noted Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). “We will listen thoughtfully and respectfully to what he (Johnson) has to say, but at least in my case, he’s not going to change my mind.” The Colorado lawmaker cited frustrations many GOP members shared about what he described as Iran violating the “spirit” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While European diplomats advocated against President Donald Trump decertifying the Iran deal last month, Johnson offered a more diplomatic position this week. “It was very clever piece of work. He kept the core of the [Iran nuclear deal] intact,” he asserted.

Even some Democrats appeared to throw cold water on Johnson’s upcoming lobbying. “I don’t think it will be very effective at all. What standing does he have? I don’t think we need him to help us understand that issue,” Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) said. “He is certainly more than welcome to be here, but I don’t know that he will sway American lawmakers one way or the other.”

Without Congressional action, Trump has threatened to terminate the JCPOA. The next date when the President will be required to make a certification decision is a mere two months away and Congress’ schedule is packed with tax reform and other budgetary items.

An opponent of additional nuclear sanctions, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) argued that foreign diplomats might not be the ideal messenger to persuade US lawmakers. “The best vehicle would be the Members here who oppose putting sanctions, talking to other members,” he explained.

“I don’t know if it will influence any particular members, certainly not myself,” emphasized Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA). While calling the UK “great allies,” Abraham pointed to Trump’s campaign rhetoric, “First we have to look at American interests.”

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